The Lions move to Prague

The Lions move to Prague

22 May 2012 | Petr Polák
 

There will be a third top-level professional ice hockey team in Prague

 
 
 
 
The rumors have come true. The management of HC LEV has confirmed that the organization is moving from Poprad, Slovakia to Prague, Czech
Republic. Starting in September, the club will play all home games at Prague's Tipsport Arena.

In fact, it is a return and technically not a franchise movement. Even the club's name follow the LEV Poprad's history, HC LEV Praha, is a newly
founded organization. Besides that, the original idea to found the Lions was born in the Czech Republic, so the club is just going back to its roots.

Against all expectations, HC LEV in Prague won't play its home games at O2 Arena. The biggest and most modern Czech venue had a place in the club's pre-season plans, but its managers weren’t able to come to an agreement with the arena's owner, forcing the Lions to be housed in the city’s smaller, older arena.

The fifty-year-old venue is also the home of the Czech Extraliga's Sparta club. Therefore, it will be a hard job for both teams to synchronize their mutual existence in the arena. Each club will have their own on-ice logos and rink-board advertising. Among other challenges, their game schedules might conflict.

"We have to respect the schedule that Sparta has already been given," said LEV chairman Jan Musil.

The club will open its first season in Prague with Josef Jandač as the team's head coach. Jandač moves to Lev from their arena co-tennants, Sparta. In the 2011-12 season, Sparta Prague finished first overall in the Extraliga’s regular season but was eliminated from the playoffs in the quarterfinals. Among the first players confirmed to Jandač’s roster are goaltender Tomáš Pöpperle (from Sparta), defencemen Tomáš Mojžíš (TPS Turkku, SM-liiga) and Ondřej Němec (Severstal, KHL) and forward Marcel Hossa (Dinamo Riga, KHL).

History of HC LEV

HC LEV was founded in 2010 in Hradec Králové, Czech Republic. The club wanted to play its home games during the 2010-11 season there, but the organization wasn't accepted by the Czech Ice Hockey Association (ČSLH) as a member.

The Lions tried to move quickly to Poprad, Slovakia. They started with hiring coaches and players, and even began a pre-season training camp. But because of time constraints, they were also rejected in Slovakia. During the 2010-11 season, the club's management worked hard on better preparation for the next season and they succeeded. HC LEV entered the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation and the KHL for the 2011-12 season.

The Lions did not make the playoffs during their first KHL season (10th in the West Conference) and finished the year with only a fragment of the original roster. When LEV's chances for making the playoffs became negligible, the club sold its most expensive players for rest of the season to other European clubs.

In January 2012, rumours about a possible movement to Prague started. The basis of these rumours was the team's major donor, the ČKD Group, founded a new company in Prague called HC LEV Praha. At first, club management was dismissive about the rumours, but in March, KHL President
Alexander Medvedev confirmed that LEV would move to the Czech Republic for the 2012-13 season.

With saved money in pocket and a budget of approximately € 19 million, HC LEV is going to start next season in the Czech capital city of Prague.
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